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Costa Rica

Sweet Treats from El Trapiche

Lest you all think we’ve done nothing with our free time but lay by the beach and cook amazing food (well, you would be mostly right), here is a little virtual postcard from our trip to Grecia. Grecia is a town in the mountains, about a 45 minute ride from San Jose. Our friend Ernesto took us and his family for a little journey there to visit a trapiche, a traditional sugar cane mill. Each Sunday at Hacienda Los Trapiches, they demonstrate the process of making sugar and sweets made from sugar cane, showing a diverse crowd of Costa Ricans and tourists from all over the world why they call themselves “guardianes de una tradicion.”

Welcome to El Trapiche

Though the animated narrator of our tour spoke only in Spanish, Ernesto filled us in on some of the basics, and it was easy to see that this place continues and cherishes their traditional ways. This particular mill harnesses the power of nearby water sources using its hydraulic mill, which was built in Scotland.

Hydraulic Mill (in the background)

The process starts with cane sugar rods, which are cut on Saturdays, and Sunday is the day when sweet treats are made. The mill turns a number of wheels and gears and grinds the cane sugar rods, extracting the juice. The juice is then moved through a “train” of different huge pots set over a wood fire. During this step the juice is boiled down and impurities are removed. The juice is moved from pot to pot by a guy with a jumbo ladle until it reaches the right temperature and consistency, which they call “honey.”

Large pots over wood fire

Pot and Ladle

The mill makes a couple different sugar products. Melcochas (marshmallows) are just like taffy – so sticky and chewy, they should be served with a toothbrush or maybe a starter pair of dentures. They are made by spreading the honey out on a surface to cool, and then adding peanuts, almonds and some other ingredients. Then – this is the fun part – they gather this up and begin to stretch it on a hook attached to a pole, all by hand. This is called the “garabato” or the “squiggle.”

"Honey" spread out to cool

Adding the peanuts and almonds

Gathering the mixture

Working the "squiggle"

Still working...

A good stretch!

I enjoyed the other treat called “sobaos” even more, which are softer and just melt in your mouth. These are also made from the honey, almonds and peanuts; I believe powdered milk is added as well. Arturo and I don’t normally eat very much sugar, so just a bite was both heavenly and a total sugar rush.

The other product they make is very simply molds of the honey, which cool into brown sugar. These are sold all over the country in supermarkets, and we have one on hand here at the house as a less processed option for baking and for our Tico friends who always sweeten their coffee – especially Arturo’s, which is considered to be  very strong (muy fuerte).

Hacienda Los Trapiches also offers a buffet lunch, and has places to camp and swim. We took the long way home, winding down through the mountains and back to San Jose. It was a beautiful drive.

Lush Costa Rica (me in the foreground)

A little stream on the property

Muchas gracias Ernesto y la familia por la aventura!

Arturo y Ernesto

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About Danielle Hart

The three foundational aspects of my life, that keep me healthy and sane, are love, food and music. I am truly blessed to have the love of, and to give my love to, my husband, family and friends. I choose to surround myself with and to seek out healthy, yummy, nourishing food. The soundtrack of my life is upbeat, fun and totally danceable. As I begin this blog, I have embarked on a new journey to open my heart to new love, food and music. I hope to share some of my experiences here as a travelog for my friends and family back home in the US. As they say here in Costa Rica, pura vida!


4 thoughts on “Sweet Treats from El Trapiche

  1. Arturo goes Green!

    Posted by Hong | February 21, 2012, 10:14 pm
  2. Good stuff Danielle, your Dad would have had a high blood sugar just smelling it.
    Too sweet for me too. The nuts sound good Love mom take care

    Posted by Charlotte Hart | February 22, 2012, 7:02 pm
  3. Hi Danielle! Your mom sent me your blog. I love it! I can’t wait to see more. I post the occasional healthy treat. I’ve been enjoying my green smoothies each morning. They usually make everyone at work gag. Good luck with your blog.

    Posted by cluttercafe | February 26, 2012, 9:41 pm

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